Listen to this article

Elementary school in the 1980s found me at the school playground sitting on the crossbar at the top of the20-foot-high fireman’s pole contemplating a penny drop.

Yep, you’re right. That’s a high fireman’s pole, but those were the good ol’ days when slides were made of metal; whirling people off the rusty merry-go-round onto asphalt was encouraged; trusting your friend to tell you when to duck while standing with eyes closed within the radius of a tether ball was fun; jumping off the lower end of a splintery teeter-totter right as someone clamors onto the high end was hilarious; and who could forget swings.

The good swings were the ones with a 30-foot length of chain. Not like the wimpy ones of today. You can’t even get enough height to properly perform a Nadia Comaneci-esque dismount. And you know what, now they wrap the chains in vinyl, so the kids won’t pinch their fingers. It’s embarrassing.

So, there I was minding my own business ... except I wasn’t because I was trying to catch the attention of Charlie B., second grade’s cutest boy. He was chasing the girls and they were screaming those fake screams and I was all like, “Hey Charlie B., why don’t you chase me?” And you know what? He noticed me.

“Hey Krista, I bet I can make you fall?”

“Nuh, uh. I’m a ninja.”

“I bet I can.”

And then he threw something. Not a ball. Not a brick. Not a box of Oreos. But a grasshopper. The largest grasshopper ever seen on the southside of the Fisher Elementary playground.

As the grasshopper hit my forehead and I tumbled backward, I knew four things to be true. No. 1: The girls weren’t fake screaming. No. 2: He was right. No. 3: I was falling. No. 4: I would never ever marry that jerk Charlie B.

Don’t even go there, this isn’t a rom-com.

I remember lying on my back looking at the blue sky thinking, “Huh, I thought heaven would be more interesting.” Then Charlie B.’s freckled face came into focus and I realized I was in hell. “You dropped something,” he placed the dead grasshopper on my face. “Look everybody! Krista has a hopper-stache!”

It wasn’t the eighth plague of Egypt that made me afraid of grasshoppers. It was stupid Charlie B. and the Southside Locusts. (That should be a band name.)

Fast forward 40 years and I’ve become my mother sitting in a rocker, crocheting and watching a reality singing show.

As an unknown artist hit a high note, our cat, Kitty Kitty (KK), barreled through the cat door and into the living room with a friend in tow. Actually, in her mouth.

“Kitty Kitty! What have I told you about playdates? You need to ask first. You can’t just bring anyone home.”

She flipped her little buddy in the air and the nightmare of my youth replayed itself. I was falling, falling, falling. I hit the ground rolling to make distance between KK and Jiminy Cricket’s cousin. He was hyper ... so very hyper. KK was excited to have him visiting. She hugged him, high-fived him and kissed him a bazillion times ...

... and then one of his big jumping legs broke off and he decided to take a nap. Seemed likely to be a very long nap.

KK was sad her friend was too tired to play, so she stepped on him, not over him, but on him, for one last bit of loving.

I crawled within an arm’s length of him and blew. He didn’t move. I blew again. No movement. It was safe to proceed. I wrapped KK’s friend in tissue and sent him down the swirly waterfall.

After a bottle of “help your heartbeat return to normal” wine, I visited the loo. Guess what was in the toilet. Yep, the grasshopper, which was, obviously, now a grasshopper zombie. Let’s call him Shaun.

It’s not like flushing Shaun again would solve the problem. He is a zombie, after all. So, I decided to do what the rest of the family does when faced with an undesirable bathroom situation. I closed the door and left it for someone else.

Which is exactly what everyone else did, and I found myself, at 7 a.m., staring into the bowl at Shaun.

“One of the girls clog the toilet again?” Thomas asked looking over my shoulder.

“Nope.”

“Shaun’s still hanging around, huh?”

“Yep.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m trying to figure out how to cut off his head, but I’m having trouble because it’s so small and the curvature of the bowl will make a clean kill difficult.”

“I’ll help you.”

“You will?”

“Sure,” Thomas leaned around me and flushed the toilet.

“Now I can’t use this toilet ever again! I’ll have to go upstairs every time I need to pee, and I hate exercise!”“Fun fact,” Thomas said, “all the sewer pipes are connected. Good luck.”

And he walked away enjoying the start of his day.

Krista Vance is a former Champaign resident. While she now calls northern Colorado home, she spent five wonderful years in Champaign and misses great friends, corn and big-sky sunsets.